Answer to a question from a reader

Can I submit a letter of authority instead of a permission-to-occupy certificate to withdraw my housing allowance?

The short answer

It wouldn’t be permissible to send the LOA instead of the PTO, as they are very different documents

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I am a teacher in the Free State. I want to withdraw my housing allowance from the Education Department but they require a permission-to-occupy (PTO) certificate and I only have a letter of authority (LOA). What is the difference and can I submit the LOA instead of the PTO?

The long answer

The PTO certificate is granted by the government to a person living on certain rural and unsurveyed land: it gives permission for the person to live on a particular plot of land. Although it is not a title deed, the PTO is accepted by the Department for the purposes of accessing the housing allowance.

The LOA, on the other hand, is a letter authorising a person to wind up a deceased estate – a process that involves paying the debts of the deceased estate and seeing that the heirs inherit what is due to them. An LOA is usually valid for 12 months and does not confer a right to the property.

It is also worth noting that in 1999 it was decided that tribal authorities would no longer be issuing PTOs. Instead, they were expected to issue a more formal and secure right such as ownership with a title deed, in line with the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act 112 of 1991. But in KwaZulu-Natal, the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB), instead of issuing title deeds, invited all holders of PTO certificates to convert their PTOs to long-term agreements. After many people had signed these agreements and then found they had to start paying rent to the ITB, there was much dissatisfaction and, eventually, parliament advised the ITB to put the conversion plans on hold, as they contradicted national policy on strengthening security of tenure for rural people. As the ITB persisted with the conversions of the PTOs, the Council for the Advancement of the Constitution (CASAC) went to court in 2018 seeking an order to declare the conversions unlawful. The case was heard in March 2020 in Pietermaritzburg and judgment was reserved.

So, while it may not be possible to obtain a PTO certificate at this point, perhaps you could approach your local municipality and ask what they can do to help in terms of securing your home allowance.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on April 15, 2021, 11:49 a.m.

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